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The Unreal Effects of Ozone Layer Depletion

Enviroment

Ozone layer depletion is probably at the top of the list of events that have the potential to wipe humanity out from the earth’s surface. It is the prime cause of increasing global temperature – which at this rate does not augur well for humankind. But, thankfully, concerted efforts over the years from scientists, researchers, activists, and concerned citizens have seen governments around the world commit to controlling global warming through cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions which in itself is an excellent achievement that has slowed down the impact of an increasingly warm planet.

ozone depletion, credit: Helgi Halldórsson, FlickrCCBut, even with all these gains made so far, we’re still in the woods – the devastating impact of global warming is becoming an increasing reality. With the reckless abandon of how millions of tons of other greenhouse gases such as Carbon dioxide, Nitrous Oxide, and so on still get released into the atmosphere, one can only pause to ponder whether humanity is designed to self-destruct.

According to a 2015 report published on the website of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), from 1970 to 2014, the use of fossil fuels – which is, by the way, the most significant contributor of CO2 into the atmosphere – has significantly increased by about 90 percent. Now, what makes this data interesting is the fact that over 78 percent of these emissions are due to fossil fuel combustions – think of the fumes from your car exhausts – and from industrialization.

A further break down of the data shows all the human activities contributing to the generation of greenhouse gases and their share. Electricity and Heat generation accounted for 25 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and is the most significant single man-made source of global greenhouse gas emission – these activities include the burning for coal, natural gas, and oil for heat and electricity.

Industrial processes accounted for 21 percent of all the global greenhouse gas emission. Agricultural activities and other land use contributed 24 percent, while transportation, building activities and other energy sources accounted for 14 percent, 6 percent and 10 percent respectively. (Please note that the data is for the 2010 global greenhouse gas emission.)

How Greenhouse Gases Impact the Ozone Layer

The Ozone layer is a naturally occurring region of Earth’s stratosphere which acts as a shield, protecting the earth’s surface and life from the harmful effect of the sun’s ultraviolet rays. The Ozone layer primarily absorbs infra-red from the sun rays while allowing the long wave light to pass through.

This selective permission is critical to maintaining a balanced and conducive environment for life to thrive on earth’s surface. But, things changed when humans started generating greenhouse gases that react with the ozone molecules (O3) leading to their depletion.

Here’s what happens: Since most of these greenhouses gases, especially chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and bromofluorocarbons are stable over an extended period. They can survive in the atmosphere for over a 100 years and within this time, would have made their way to the stratosphere where they interact with the sun’s UV light.

The action of the sun’s ultraviolet ray on these compounds releases Cl and Br as radicals which then go on to initiate catalytic reactions capable of destroying thousands of ozone molecules.

The depletion of the Ozone molecules in the stratosphere thins out the ozone layer which leads to an incremental reduction in the ability of the ozone to absorb much of the ultraviolet rays. Hence, exposing the earth’s surface to the damaging impacts of the high-intensity energies from the sun.

To appreciate just how devastating this ozone depletion can be, here are some of the unreal effects of ozone layer depletion.

Impacts of Ozone Layer Depletion on Life

First off, it’s important to note that life as we know it on earth abhors UV rays. It’s interesting to think about how humans, animals, plants, marine life and so on would adapt to this changing level of high energy rays in their environment. Would they grow capabilities to withstand this new environmental stress or die off?

Enough of the speculation: let’s look at what the hard data says about this new challenge…

Humans:

There is documented evidence of the carcinogenic impact of prolonged exposure to Ultraviolet radiation. UVs have been known to trigger cancer of the skin on humans, eye cataract – a filmy cloud over the eyes, and the suppression of the immune system. Also, one cannot rule out the possibility of DNA mutation due to the action of high penetrative UVs.

Overexposure to UV radiation especially in snowy regions at high altitudes can result to snow blindness which over time cans permanent damage to the eyes. Also, cataract has been shown to be the biggest cause of permanent blindness around the world with two million new cases every year at a 10 percent sustained ozone depletion.

Also, recent studies, suggest that viruses can be activated by prolonged and increased UV exposure.

Plants:  

Although plants need UV light to grow healthy, several on-going studies are helping us understand the impact of elevated UV level on them. In some observations involving rice and soy, researchers found that exposure to an increased level of UVs leads to a significant reduction in yield, produce sizes, and the quality of crops.

This means, if things are left as they are – with no progress made in stopping and reversing ozone depletion – we might be at risk of dealing with unviable crops whose yield cannot feed the world’s population.

Aquatic ecosystems:

Zooplankton and Phytoplankton are essential microscopic marine organisms that are vital links in the food chain; are highly sensitive to ultraviolet radiation. The ozone layer depletion affects them severely since there’s an increased level of UV rays reaching them.

The increase in UV radiation threats their survival and balance of the ocean food web since these microorganisms are the primary producers.

Studies have shown that most of these unicellular organisms are almost at the maximum tolerance of infra-red radiation such that even a slight increase in UV level may have a severe effect on the plankton life and upsetting the entire marine food chain.

In summary, the ozone layer depletion has brought to the fore the negative impact of human activities on the planet. The elevated level of UV radiation with its attendant effects could push humanity to the brink of extinction. However, the good news is, humans have also taken it upon themselves to save the planet, even though much still needs to be done.

Environmental Mag



5 Comments on "The Unreal Effects of Ozone Layer Depletion"

  1. Sissyfuss on Sat, 2nd Dec 2017 9:27 pm 

    “Humans have taken upon themselves to save the planet” Yeah, all three of them.

  2. Makati1 on Sat, 2nd Dec 2017 10:29 pm 

    Human extinction by:
    1. Heat
    2. Radiation
    3. Starvation
    4. Nuclear war
    5. Disease
    6. Lack of oxygen
    7. All of the above.

    The race is on. Place your bets…

  3. Go Speed Racer on Sun, 3rd Dec 2017 12:03 am 

    The ozone layer has gotten
    back to normal, until last year.

    That’s when me and Mick started
    some serious old couch and tire
    fires in my backyard. We even tossed
    on big chunks of styrofoam and
    poured old motor oil on everything
    before lighting.

    Now th ozone layer is getting real bad
    and there is an ozone hole again.
    Hope they don’t figure out it was us.

  4. dave thompson on Sun, 3rd Dec 2017 12:39 am 

    Not to worry my backyard incinerator is going full blast, just piled on more plastic recyclables. Next I have collected every old tire and couch/sofa around. So I am on my way to energy independence.

  5. Go Speed Racer on Sun, 3rd Dec 2017 10:25 pm 

    Awesome possum Dave, and we can
    cook ourselves some roadkill, over
    that couch fire. There is no need to
    rely on grid power, wal-mart and Costco.
    Besides,
    It’s how America was built in the first
    place, early settlers 200 years ago,
    set couches and styrofoam on fire
    outside the pilgrim settlements,
    to stay warm
    thru the winter.

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